Friday, July 08, 2005
I guess they were wrong after all
Recall a post of a couple months ago about the wingnuts and evolution. I said at the time that it seemed like a uniquely American fundamentalist controversy and that even the Catholic Church accepted evolution. Well, nevermind. At least according to the archbishop of Vienna
In an unfortunate new twist on this old controversy, neo-Darwinists recently have sought to portray our new pope, Benedict XVI, as a satisfied evolutionist. They have quoted a sentence about common ancestry from a 2004 document of the International Theological Commission, pointed out that Benedict was at the time head of the commission, and concluded that the Catholic Church has no problem with the notion of "evolution" as used by mainstream biologists - that is, synonymous with neo-Darwinism.
The commission's document, however, reaffirms the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of design in nature. Commenting on the widespread abuse of John Paul's 1996 letter on evolution, the commission cautions that "the letter cannot be read as a blanket approbation of all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe."
Furthermore, according to the commission, "An unguided evolutionary process - one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence - simply cannot exist."
Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of "chance and necessity" are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence.
This is also an interesting attempt to somehow reclaim reason and science as supporting the church. "Overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science." Really? I guess I missed the issue of Nature
where they published the results of the experiment that found such evidence but no doubt it was a peer reviewed experiment and many others have been able to reproduce the results. Of course if no such evidence exists this is just propaganda masquerading as both science and religion. But even if that is the case the argument makes for an interesting admission--faith alone is not enough to convince people there is a creator, the church needs to (falsely) play the trump card of reason and science. When it gets to that point creationism, no matter how highly placed the proponent, has admitted intellectual defeat. Legitimate scientific claims for creationism are nonexistent and to claim otherwise is a disingenuous act of desperation.
The Saturday NYT has a good follow-up article. I am glad they don't play the old he said/she said game and pretend that both sides are equally valid. Early in the article they lay it out for those that might not have been following all that closely:
Darwinian evolution is the foundation of modern biology. While researchers may debate details of how the mechanism of evolution plays out, there is no credible scientific challenge to the underlying theory.